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Democrats push to keep Iowa's first caucus status

Iowa's Democrats said they listened to criticisms of the current caucus process and are proposing major improvements at the DNC to address them.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa Democrats are continuing the fight to keep their caucus first in the nation this week. The party will make its case before the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee Thursday morning. 

"I feel very good about our presentation," said Scott Brennan, the sole Iowan on the committee. "We've got really good folks presenting. I think we'll make a very compelling case."

Brennan said Iowa's Democrats listened to the criticism from the public and the committee on what needed to change in its caucus. He believes the proposals outlined in the application will address those concerns.

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Here's what the Iowa Democratic Party has outlined as those changes:

●  A process for non-present participation which would be conducted primarily through mail or in-person participation over a 14 to 28 day window prior to caucus night.

For example, in a hypothetical scenario, an Iowa Democratic Caucus goer would request a presidential preference card, they would be mailed that card and then have 14-28 days to either mail it back or return it in person.

This proposal would eliminate realignment so that each caucus goer would express a preference for only one candidate.

● At the caucus, the Iowa Democratic Party would report the results publicly, and caucuses would focus primarily on conducting party business — particularly electing delegates to county conventions as determined by the non-present participation precinct-level results. 

This would separate the expression of presidential preference from the election of delegates in order to streamline the process.

● The process would be professionalized to reduce the burden on volunteers. The DNC would contract an approved election vendor, a county auditor or the Secretary of State’s office to ensure a fair and trustworthy process.

Brennan said non-present participation in the caucus would make the event more accessible. 

"If you're working, or if you're in the military, or living abroad, or have disabilities, or mobility issues or transportation issues, it's just hard to get there," said Steffen Schmidt, an Iowa State University Professor of Political Science Emeritus. 

When it comes to getting rid of realignment, Schmidt believes this would help ease the confusion of attendees. 

"Iowa was the only state that has that physical 'go into this corner or that corner,' which is what made it so charming," Schmidt said. "But it does take a lot of work, and maybe in 2024 we're too far into the 21st century to do that anymore."

So with all these changes, how does Schmidt anticipate the state will fare?

"I think Iowa is not going to be first in the nation. I think the DNC will probably pick a small group of states," Schmidt said. 

He predicted that, if a small group of states were to be chosen, it would cover all the nation's regions, even predicting a few states that could be included: South Carolina, Nevada, Iowa and more. 

"So it might be a group of states that does this first," Schmidt said. "And Iowa will probably be one of those, I'm hoping, because it has a great tradition. And Iowans really take their politics seriously." 

Iowa will present its case Thursday morning at 8:25 a.m. CST. You can watch the presentation here.

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